Wins GOP Straw Poll
by Focusing on the Issues
Sen. Bill Armistead
The Alabama Republican Party
held its first ever presidential straw poll last week-end and over 3,000
Republicans showed up to participate. This was the largest gathering of
Republicans in Alabama - ever. That, in and of itself, made the event
a tremendous success.
Since Alabama is the last state in the nation to hold its presidential
primary - in June 2000 - there were not many candidates interested in
coming to the straw poll. The Alabama Senate passed a bill in the last
session of the legislature which would have moved the presidential primary
to March - when most presidential primaries are held. I was supportive
of this change, but the House failed to pass it and so we remain dead
last in voting for our choice for president. That means both the Republican
and Democrat candidates for presidents will have been selected by the
time we cast our vote next June.
But, back to the straw poll. Only three presidential candidates accepted
the invitation to come to Alabama to campaign before the delegates to
the straw poll. They were U.S. Sen. Orin Hatch of Utah, former U.N. Ambassador
Alan Keyes and Florida education advocate Angel Rocker.
The result of the straw poll showed that Alabama Republicans responded
positively to the efforts of Hatch and Keyes campaigning in Alabama. Ambassador
Keyes surprised the professional pundits by winning the poll with 500
of the 1,700 plus votes. He got almost one-third of the votes cast. Sen.
Hatch came in second with 458 votes. Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who many
assumed would win, even though he did not campaign, came in third with
Frankly, I was not surprised with Keyes' come-from-behind victory since
Bush and the other perceived front runners snubbed Alabama. He is by everyone's
standards the most articulate and dynamic speaker in American politics.
And on top of that, he has been in Alabama numerous times. He even served
for a short time several years ago as interim President of Alabama A &
M University in Huntsville.
Many delegates voted for Keyes, however, based on his beliefs and conservative
philosophy. More than any other candidate, Keyes' position on the issues
probably reflects the average conservative voter in Alabama than any other
presidential candidate. And I think most conservatives are thrilled to
see a black leader, like Keyes, speaking so strongly and convincingly
on the issues.
Keyes is a staunchly pro-life. He is correct when he says that the Declaration
of Independence plainly states that we are all created equal, endowed
by our Creator with our human rights, and not one of us has the right
to take the life of an unborn child.
On the issue of affirmative action, Keyes says that the civil rights movement
of the 1960's sought to enforce the fundamental principle that all men
are created equal. But, today's civil rights groups have abandoned that
principle in favor of preferential treatment for groups defined by race
or sex. He says that this is simply wrong and that we cannot cure injustice
with another injustice.
Keyes firmly believes that the courts have gone too far in undermining
religious freedom. He said that he would propose legislation restoring
this freedom as well as appoint conservative judges who would turn the
tide against constitutional interpretations that undermine religious freedom.
On the issue of taxes, Keyes favors the abolition of the income tax saying
that doing so will restore the basic American principle that our income
is both our own money and our own private business - not the government's.
He proposes replacing it with a national sales tax which he says would
rejuvenate independence and responsibility in our citizens.
He wants to end government programs like the family-destroying welfare
system and sex-education courses that encourage promiscuity. Keyes says
that our first priority should be restoring the moral and material support
for the marriage-based two-parent family. He claims that the disintegration
of the family is the major contributing factor in poverty, crime, violence,
the decline in educational performance, and a host of other expensive
Keyes is committed to preserving the right of law-abiding citizens to
protect themselves by owning guns. It is his belief that the moral values
of our people that will save us from violence, not the presence or absence
Having heard Ambassador Keyes speak on the issues several times, it was
not surprising to me that he connected with Alabamians. While no one predicts
that he can get the Republican nomination for the presidency, Keyes serves
a useful purpose in the campaign by focusing on these basic issues which
are of concern to many Americans.
is an Alabama State Senator for District 14.